For many Americans seeking help from mental health professionals, selecting a provider is an important decision that should be made carefully. Credentials, competence and your comfort level with the provider are worth considering.
There are different types of professionals out there to help. The following are the most common for mental health care:
Have medical degrees, can prescribe medication and have completed three years of residency training (beyond medical school) in mental health care.
Have a doctorate in psychology and, generally, complete one or two years of internship before licensure.
Have a minimum of a master’s degree in a mental health discipline, and at least two years of post-graduate supervised experience.
Marriage and Family Therapists
Typically have a master’s degree or doctorate in marriage and family therapy, and at least one year of supervised practice.
Have a minimum of a master’s degree in social work and at least two years of post-graduate supervised experience.
Who’s the Best Fit?
Finding the right mental health professional requires a bit of work. If you are depressed or have another serious mental illness, it can be challenging to do that work on your own. If you are in this situation, ask family, friends or your primary physician for assistance. Here are some reliable ways to locate a provider:
- Through referrals by physician, friends or family members
- Ask your health insurance company for a list of providers
- Check your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work for a referral
Also take into account factors that are important to you like age, race, gender, religion and cultural background. It is not wrong to rule out certain providers because they don’t meet the criteria; you will be establishing a long-term relationship with this person, and you need to feel as comfortable with him or her as possible.
9 Essential Questions to Ask
- What types of treatment do you provide?
- What is your training or experience with my problem area?
- How will we determine treatment goals?
- How will we measure my progress?
- What do you expect from me?
- What are your office hours?
- How do you handle emergencies?
- Do you charge for missed appointments?
- Are you in my health plan’s provider network?